Hans Mezger, the engineer behind so many of Porsche’s legendary racing and street cars, has died at the age of 90. Mezger’s many accomplishments at Porsche include the design of the original Porsche 901/911 air-cooled flat-six engine, the development of the 2.0-liter 914 engine, as well as the engines for numerous race cars such as the 917/10 and 917/30, Type 935/936 race cars, and the TAG-Turbo Porsche F1 engine.
Last fall, Automobile was lucky enough to spend some time speaking with Mezger in the presence of the oldest 911 Porsche owns, the 57th car ever built. In it sat the eponymous 2.0-liter air-cooled six-cylinder the engineer designed, and despite 56 years having passed since the creation of the engine, Mezger’s passion for his work and for the products it produced still shone brightly.
It was in F1 that Mezger learned some of the tricks that would later be applied to the 901/911 engine, borrowing combustion-chamber design tactics for the 1.5-liter eight-cylinder Type 753 F1 project from Porsche’s first foray into F1 in 1960, just four years after he had joined the company.
After Mezger’s success with the 911 engine that would bear his name, he was promoted to head of the race-car design department within Porsche by none other than Ferdinand Piëch. “Sometimes we also worked around the clock—like in 1965 when we created the Ollon-Villars Bergspyder in just 24 days and shortly thereafter the 910,” said Mezger.
Some of the race cars that followed under Mezger’s leadership are among the most revered in motorsports history, including the 917, but also the 907, 908, and 910, and engines for Group C rally and Indy as well as F1 and GT racing. But Mezger’s influence on production Porsche sports cars would last even longer; the “Mezger engine” design lasted in the 911 range until its final application in the 911 GT3 RS 4.0. Mezger also worked with Singer to develop a very special engine for the custom house’s very special 911s, and even created and is listed on the patent for a four-cylinder engine for Harley-Davidson.
It’s clear Mezger was at the heart of much of the best, winningest, and most desirable history at Porsche. It’s impossible to say what Porsche’s legacy would look like if it weren’t for Hans Mezger, but it’s undeniable it would have been different. The man will be missed, yet his contributions to Porsche and the automotive and racing worlds will never be forgotten.
Hans Mezger Career Highlights at Porsche
1956-1960 | Technical calculation department in the design department, responsible for valve control of all engines, among other things.
1960-1962 | Move to the Porsche Formula 1 project team, collaboration in engine and chassis design.
1963 | Design of the 901/911 engine. Responsible for design and further development of all racing engines.
1965 | Design and project management of the Ollon-Villars Bergspyder. Management of the newly established department for race car design.
1966-1970 | Design of the 910, 907, 908, 917, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine for the 914 production sports car.
1971-1973 | CanAm race cars 917/10 and 917/30 with turbocharging.
1974-1976 | Design, development and further development of six-cylinder turbo engines and the Type 935 and 936 race cars.
1977-1978 | Development of the water cooling and four-valve concept for the Type 935 and 936 six-cylinder turbo engines.
1977-1980 | Design of the four-cylinder engine for Harley-Davidson. Development of the Indy engine based on the Type 935/936. Further development of the 935/936 race cars and engines.
1981-1982 | Development of a 2.65-litre engine based on the 935/936 for Group C (956/962).
1981-1987 | Design, overall project management and further development of the “TAG-Turbo – Made by Porsche” Formula 1 engine.
1987-1988 | Design of the Type 2708 Indy 2.65-liter engine.
1990 | Design of the Type 3512 12-cylinder Formula 1 engine.
Hans Mezger’s Honors and Awards
1974 | The Starley Premium Award (GB) for the best automotive presentation of the year on the Porsche Type 917.
1984 | Behind the Scenes Award (USA) for the development of the TAG Turbo Formula 1 engine.
1984 | Trofeo Colin Chapman (I) for the development of the TAG Turbo Formula 1 engine.
1984 | Prince Metternich Prize (D) for outstanding technical achievements in motorsport.
1984 | Trophée de L’Exploit (F) for the development of the TAG Turbo Formula 1 engine.
1984 | Caschi d’Oro (I) for winning the Formula 1 Constructors’ World Championship (presented to McLaren).
1985 | Prof. Ferdinand-Porsche Award (A) of the Technical University Vienna in recognition for the accomplishment of developing the combustion engine. Hans Mezger is still the only person from the Porsche company to have won this award.
1987 | Médaille Spéciale (F) for the development of the TAG Turbo Formula 1 engine.